Thursday, September 06, 2012

Team decision making techniques – Fist to Five and others

Meetings are something which many people dislike for several reasons.  One of the common causes is the boredom, and low engagement levels.  An Agile coach or a facilitator should monitor the engagement levels of the participants, and drive the meetings in appropriate direction.  

Steps to engage audience during meeting
#1 : 
Circulate  the detailed agenda and objective of the meeting before hand. The agenda should indicate the owner, and the time allocated for the topic.  The objective should be as clear as possible and less generic.

For example:

: To finalize the  user interface for the login screen

* Present the wireframe for the login screen (5 minutes: John)
* Make a  list of changes needed for the wireframe (10 minutes: Carla)
* Collate the list of changes into groups (5 minutes: Carla)
* Finalize the list and action items (10 minutes: John)

#2: Many a times it is not possible to exactly stick to the duration allocated for a topic. Some one or the other will come up with a valid topic/question to discuss.This is when,one could make use of the “Thumbs up/down/sideways” decision.

As soon as the timer goes off after the allocated duration, ask the participants if this discussion should be continued on this topic by showing their thumbs.

“Thumbs up” implies  agreement.  “Thumbs down” implies, disagreement   and  “Sideways” says “don’t know/not decided”


Based on the number of thumbs up/down, one could sense people’s decision and make the final call. 

Fist to Five decision technique
This technique is an extension of the above “thumbs up/down” technique, and could be used to understand the pulse in a more granular fashion.

Sample scenarios
1. The team needs to vote and identify a retrospective item that needs immediate attention at program level
2. Check the confidence level of the team on a specific decision
3. Gauge the impact of an issue on the delivery timelines
4. Identify if the funding is sufficient to run the project

The facilitator could ask the audience to show their support either with fist and with fingers.


Fist could represent  --> No support or no vote
One finger  --> One vote (full support)
Two fingers –> two votes (partial support)
Similarly,  Three, four or Five could be represented either with increase of support or decrease based on the circumstances.

In some contexts, five fingers could be used to say “Stop” or no support. 

Try these techniques during your next meeting, and see how quickly one could gather consensus. 

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